USMNT’s McKennie off to strong start under Wagner at Schalke

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The hand-wringing in USMNT critical circles over whether Weston McKennie would be used at a different position for club than country — Gasp. How would he deal with that? — can be eased a bit now.

Schalke’s young mainstay, 20 for another two days, has played all but five minutes of the club’s first two Bundesliga matches, and manager David Wagner likes what he’s seeing from the central midfielder.

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His 3.5 aerial duels won per match is tops on the team, his 3 interceptions per match behind only Omar Mascarell. On a team which could struggle to score goals, he’ll be a big part of getting the ball from point A to point B and is leading the team is passes completed. Small sample size, of course, but promising.

“He’s an outstanding talent on the No. 6, No. 8 position. He has a real working mentality and he is brave on the ball as well. He has a very good header. He’s 20, 21, so there’s a lot more to come but we are very, very happy to have him in the team. This is for sure one of the top players for Schalke and one of the top players for the Bundesliga for his position as well.

McKennie signed a new five-year deal with Schalke this summer, and we knew the club’s next hire would be huge for the USMNT (as bold as that sounds, yes, the entire team). So far, so good, even if Schalke is 0-1-1 after a tricky first two matches versus Borussia Monchengladbach (draw) and Bayern Munich (loss).